Composing the Jew’s Soundscape in Operatic Versions of The Merchant of Venice
Opera composers adapting The Merchant of Venice have given Shylock a distinctive sound using musical techniques that mark him as a classic outsider. Drawing on the scores of ten of these operas this essay highlights five compositional strategies for characterizing Shylock. Separately, these strategies highlight subtle shifts in the portrayal of Jews across different eras and localities. Together, they point to a deeper portrayal of Jews as figures who live on the margins of European tonality. Shylock in these operas projects an ambiguous social status and lack of alignment with the more consonant world of the other characters.